The University of Iowa Athletics Department and the Iowa Farm Bureau announced at a news conference Friday August 5 plans to collaborate on efforts to help consumers understand the immense challenges and opportunities today's farmers embrace, and to do so under the banner, "America Needs Farmers" or ANF. That was the name of the initiative first undertaken by former University of Iowa Hawkeye football coach Hayden Fry during the farm financial crisis of the mid-1980s. That initiative is embraced today by the Iowa Hawkeyes' current head football coach, Kirk Ferentz.
"We are honored for the opportunity to work with the Iowa Farm Bureau to help tell this important story. What Hayden said is as true today as it was 26 years ago: Iowa and America does need its farmers," says Ferentz.
Experts say in less than a generation, the world's population will require 100% more food than is grown today. And, because there is a finite amount of land that can produce that food, farmers will have to embrace progress and embrace diversity even more than they have to date.
Help people understand what it means to feed a growing world population
"More Americans than ever before are two, three, four generations removed from the farm. These Americans also want to know more about their food and telling that story starts with farmers. It's important to start the conversation and understand what it means to feed a growing world population," says Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau and fifth generation dairy farmer from Brooklyn in east central Iowa.
"Farming has changed a lot since 1985," he adds. "The seeds we plant, the way we plant, the equipment we use has changed, but so has the need for food and energy. Much of our nation's innovation in renewable energy, medicine, building materials and diagnostic tools come from what we grow. The list continues to grow, but the goal remains unchanged. That is, making sure consumers have safe, wholesome food choices at the grocery store."
"I've always believed in embracing all the good things that Coach Fry built into the Iowa Hawkeye football program and ANF was one of his greatest," says Ferentz. "There is so much to be proud of in Iowa and our state's prominent position in agriculture is one of them. It's impressive that we lead the nation in growing more corn, soybeans, ethanol, hogs, and eggs, all more than any other state in the country and it's important to keep that going. Agriculture is a part of the fabric of who we are as Iowans."
Original "ANF" decal was introduced in 1985, in response to farm crisis
Fry introduced "America Needs Farmers" when his unbeaten and No. 1 ranked 1985 Hawkeye football team traveled to Ohio State for a nationally televised game against the Buckeyes. Iowa took the field that day with a yellow circle with the letters "ANF" affixed to the right side of their helmets, immediately above the Tigerhawk logo. It was a topic of local, regional and national conversation the remainder of the season, a year that ended for the Hawkeyes in Pasadena, Calif., as the Big Ten Conference's representative at the 1986 Rose Bowl.
"I was one of the luckiest young men in the world to be raised on a farm until 10 or 11 years of age. A lot of the things I learned on the farm I applied in coaching football and to the financial world. The economic development of the farmer was going downhill. By 1985, it was tragic…closing down farms, people hurting," recalled Fry at the August 5, 2011 press conference with Farm Bureau, jointly announcing the new ANF effort.
Fry adds that "I had recruited quite a few farm boys on my football team and they're the salt of the earth. They wanted an education, they were hungry, they were well-disciplined and they were strong because they had been working on the farm. I realized that America needed to know that our nation's farmers needed help. So I came up with the ANF decal (American Needs Farmers) and it was amazing the great response we got, not only in Iowa but across the nation."
Kinnick Stadium will have an ANF Plaza, with an ANF Wall of Fame
In recognition of Fry's leadership position in support of America's farmers, the UI will designate the space between the west grandstand and the north grandstand of historic Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City as "ANF Plaza." The plaza will eventually include a bronze plaque that will describe the ANF initiative undertaken in 1985 by Fry and continued today under Ferentz.
The UI Athletics Department will create an ANF Wall of Fame inside ANF Plaza. The Wall of Fame will honor student-athletes at the UI in the sport of football who exemplify the tenacity, work ethic and character of the American farmer.
The UI will add a section to its award-winning official worldwide web site, hawkeyesports.com, dedicated to telling the ANF story. The pages currently include a history of ANF, trivia, a calendar of events related to ANF, and video and editorial from former University of Iowa football players who proudly wore the ANF on their game helmet during their playing days at the UI. The site's URL is www.AmericaNeedsFarmers.org.
Other activities of ANF initiative to honor rural Iowa and American farmers
The UI Athletics Department has designated its prime-time Big Ten Conference home game Oct. 15 against Northwestern "ANF Day at Kinnick" and the athletic department will work with the Iowa Farm Bureau on the celebration of Iowa's and America's farmers. The UI expects ANF Day to be an annual event.
The UI Athletics Department will also facilitate the creation of officially licensed merchandise that features the ANF logo, the UI's Tigerhawk logo, and in certain circumstances, the official logo of the Iowa Farm Bureau. A portion of the royalties generated from the sale of such items will be directed to charitable causes such as helping food banks throughout the state of Iowa.
"Farmers are glad to see leaders like Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz celebrate America's farmers. Together, we are proud to recognize the ANF initiative and what it stood for 26 years ago and what it stands for today as a testament to the 'Farm Strong' families of Iowa…the men and women who go the extra mile to not only grow safe, wholesome food, but to protect the land and the legacy of rural Iowa and the American farmer," adds Lang.
The UI Athletics Department will work with Hawkeye Sports Properties to carry out certain elements of its partnership with Iowa Farm Bureau. Hawkeye Sports Properties is a property of Learfield Sports, which manages multimedia rights for more than 50 collegiate institutions, associations and conferences.